Why I Love My Body (Even Without Six-Pack Abs)

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pinch belly love handles
One writer learns to love her body despite its imperfections.

I still remember the sunny day my mother drove me to the Guess outlet in my hometown for a new pair of jeans. All my friends in the 7th grade looked so sleek in their acid washed straight legs, the upside-down Guess triangle a junior high status symbol denoting the popular lunch table.

Smiling, I locked myself into the fluorescent-lit dressing room with a few pairs. I stepped into each leg and struggled with the button and zipper. This can't be right, I thought. I finally made my way to a 31-inch waist pair—the largest available in the store. Inches of my stomach spilled over the zipper, the button refused to clasp, I took them off and folded them to the side.

It looks like cookie dough, I thought, looking at my pale belly. Crying, I left the store empty-handed. I was 13, but this would be a lifelong battle each bikini season.

"I hate my stomach," I said every time my girlfriends and I talked body grievances.

"At least you don't have thunder thighs," Regina said.

"Ugh, I hate my arms," Sadie said. "Look at them jiggle." She raised her right arm and waved, a very slight fold of skin moved.

One day I got a free pass to the New York Sports Club down the street. I'd never been a gym person, but I was bored on this spring afternoon and thought I'd give it a shot. Who knows, maybe I'd even get into shape.

I walked around the gym and was given tutorials by a very fit athletic trainer who showed me how to use the ab machines and which dumbbells to choose when doing squats. High off the possibility of a new body I signed up for six sessions with a trainer.

Each hour-long session dotted my body with sweat. I felt nauseous and dizzy, but I learned a myriad of complicated ab exercises and worked my way to 12-pound dumbbell shoulder raises. By the end of month two I was finally strong enough to run four miles straight on the treadmill. By month three I was so focused on my lunges, I didn't even bother to pick apart my reflection on each surrounding mirror.

The other day I tried on a bathing suit. I could see the benefits of hitting the gym, though I was once again disheartened by the extra skin on my stomach. I pinched an inch and frowned.

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